O Dear Readers, and you know who I mean, all you wonderful readers who gather here twice a week, you readers who send me the best birthday wishes, write the best Comments, fill me in on the best ideas of France and travel and tea and feathers YOU KNOW WHO I MEAN: YOU.

Will you be my Valentine?

 

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This is what a hand-made, illustrated travel memoir in process looks like:

See that slip of green paper on the cover? It’s a note to myself, a definition of life that I read somewhere and wrote down:

Life: A length of time marked by periodic changes of luck.

Words to live by.

As I create each page, I tape in my text and my illustrations into the approximate positions that will have when they are printed.

The yellow stickies on the edge of some of the pages are there to remind me that there’s something that I to fix on that page; the little yellow stickies on the bottom of  sheet are there so I can keep track of the page count.  I use those sheet protectors because that makes it easier to move pages around, and keeps the schmutz off the art work.

Repeat 208 times, and you have a book!

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The elderly guy who lived two houses down (for the last 45 years) passed away two weeks ago.

His grown children have been emptying the old homestead for the past week. See that Santa? I saw that Santa on the old guy’s front lawn every December. I’m surprised that the kids don’t treat this Santa like an heirloom — it’s vintage! And your dad loved that damn Santa!!

Just goes to show you. Everybody you know secretly hates your stuff.

Which brings me to the philosophical question of the day: What makes an heirloom for chrissake? What makes the cut when you’re sorting out your treasures?

In my on-going quest to de-clutter my life, and beat my non-existent heirs to the punch, these are some of the heirloom-quality objects did not make the cut:

Let’s start with the Blue Jay:

From my shrine to my favorite bird: a Blue Jay planter that I got ten years ago — it’s a PARMA by AAI Made in Japan,  c. 1960 and the cool thing is that it’s life size.

OUT.

Now, to the horse:

In the late 1980s there used to be a shop off Fifth Ave in New York where Nelson Rockefeller sold reproductions of his prized porcelains. I remember the day I bought this horsey knick-knack. I don’t know why, but paying what was then (and still is) a significant chunk of money (if I remember right, it was $70) to buy this reproduction of a Chinese export horse from the Chien Lung Period (1736 – 1796) made in Portugal by the famous Mottahedeh factory made me feel like an heiress; as if merely by the act of buying this object I had acquired something that gave me class.

It’s always had pride of place on my bookshelf. I want to give it a good home before one of my cats finally knocks it off  and I have to see it smashed to bits.

OUT.

This Peace Corps souvenir:

I paid, maybe, $5.00 for it, in Niger, and since 1982 it’s mostly been stashed away in closets (when it wasn’t packed away in a box in my mother’s basement). It’s never hung on any wall in any place that I’ve ever lived in. I’m not the kind of person who has to display  tchochkahs acquired in foreign lands.

OUT.

Now, this interesting objet:

This is one of the neatest things I’ve ever found in a thrift shop. It’s a hand-made wooden box that I found in the mid-1990s at my local Salvation Army Thrift Shop. It’s about the size of a shoe box, and it has ten little doors on it, each one fastened with a different kind of brass latch, hook, snap, or clasp. I call it The Buckle Box. I have no idea what it was meant to do.

OUT.

This is the difference between Junk and Clutter.

Junk is stuff that nobodyhas any use for (a broken Walkman, very old ice skates,  rusty metal filing cabinets, Hartmann luggage from the ’80s).

Clutter is stuff that has immense, abiding sentimental significance to a person you no longer want to be.

Just thought you’d like to know.

This is what has made the cut:

A set of stainless steel cocktail forks from the ’50s that has Niagara Falls printed on each little bitty plastic handle.

Now, who doesn’t have room in their h ouse, or heart, for these???

 

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I have a Picture Window in my den.

Mostly I use my Picture Window to look out of. But to the critters in the backyard, my Picture Window is their view in. That’s Taffy (above) checking out the view in. If you think it might be disconcerting to have a cat watching you from the other side of your Picture Window,

try getting the Hairy Eyeball from a Blue Jay.

Or the Frank Curiosity of a Cardinal:

 

You might have noticed that it was snowing when I took these pictures out of my Picture Window on Wednesday. Snowy days are surprisingly good days for bird watching,

just ask Lickety,

who got on the cardinal’s nerves,

so he took off and flew up into the tree

to hang out with his pals,

where there was a Blue Jay in a bad mood (what else is new?) who didn’t like sharing his tree with the Red Riding Hood Gang so he dive-bombed them

in a vain attempt to claim all the branches for himself.          What? You don’t see the Blue Jay here?  In flight?   In the lower left hand corner?

Here he is:

See that blur?

Taffy missed it too.

There’s nothing better than watching the world out of your Picture Window.

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It snowed during the night again. My Champagne-O-Meter had a new-fallen cap of powder on him.

The new snow made it hard for the cats to nip into the backyard shed. So Lickety decided to beat the path.

 

Little birdies can make quite a mess, too. Oh sure, they look sweet:

But they have terrible manners, spilling their bird seed all over the place:

So, with all this new snow and old habits on my mind, it was a good day to clean out the linen closet.

Imagine my surprise when I pulled out a small Saks Fifth Avenue shopping bag (Where did that come from? I never shop at Saks) and looked inside and found my long lost baby mitten collection!

Readers of When Wanderers Cease to Roam might know these mittens from page 11:

This is the picture I called Mindfulness and Mittens:

A Collecting mittens became my favorite Winter hobby, when I was living in that little village on the Long Island Sound during that decade that I write about in When Wanderers Cease to Roam. Keeping an eye out for lost mittens — only the smallest ones would do — like they were truffles; or strange, Winter-blooming roses: it kept me on the alert for possibilities, kept me in the game during these most sensory-deprived months of the year. It was part of what I call my Winter Mind.

When I got married and moved into Top Cat’s house, I lost track of those mittens. I’ve been wondering for years (all seven years that I’ve lived in his 100-year old house) what happened to them and today I found the collection, just waiting to re-enact page 11…

Tea bag for scale.

I still collect little lost mittens. The collection now totals 24.

Yes,  I am quite the connoisseur collector.

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This is what the Champagne-O-Meter looked like when I woke up this morning:

Good thing the dining room window has such a lovely view of the morning sun…

 

And lo, from out of the woods in the backyard…

…comes roaming a lone ranger…

…name of Lucky…

…looking to rustle up a little breakfast.

Bibs, of curse kept an  eye on him, in case Lucky started heading over to a breakfast bowl that was not his.

Bibs plowed his way to the patio himself, all the way from the hutch:

 

That’s all I wanted to show you today, some sweet kitties in the snow.

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We left the house at 3:40 PM and got to the edge of the Long Island Sound at 4:10 — barely in time to watch the sun set on the shortest day of the year.

Nobody else was on the beach, maybe because of the wind chill that made it feel as if it were 17 degrees — but for me and Top Cat, that only means it’s perfect champagne-drinking weather. The bubbly stays nice and cold — even colder — after you pour it!

Top Cat, chillin’ with the champers.

Bring on the light!

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Penelope here.

Blogging is not my job. This my job. Me watching for snows out living room window.

But Blogging Lady, not the Lady what yells all time that she has no life of her own because of us cats (but not me, she mean all other cats) but Other Lady, the one who feeds us and blogs, wait, Might be same Lady.

She ask me to write. Because she been up all night at 24-Hour Emergency Animal Hospital with sick cat — not  bossy cat what I fight for Cream Cheese with when Lady make bagels. No, is Fat Cat. Name Belle. FAT. She sick, but better now, and Lady is taking Day Off  like she need one .

WHAT ABOUT ME?? WATCHING FOR SNOWS ALL DAY??? I need day off too but I here ON OVERTIME.

This what I wood rather do than blog:

Because I am Penelope, the Pretty One.

Anyway. Lady, one that Blogs not Lady who doesn’t have a life of her own because of us cats (but she’s  not talk about me, of course, she mean all other cats) is take Day Off.

There. I blog for Lady. Now I go back watch for snows.

 

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It all started in 2007.

And it continued in 2008.

And by 2009 it was an annual tradition:

The 2010 Vivian Swift Holiday Card (Limited Edition), hand painted and hand-made by yours truly, is READY!

If you would like to have the new card sent to you (anywhere in the world), please be one of the  first 25 readers to send me their mailing address to email address listed below.

Posted at 12 noon on Dec 1: Thank you! Thank you, everyone, who emailed me their addresses and their kind words! I have my 25 (actually, I have my 46…that’s what I get for not keeping on top of my email but hey: the more the merrieer) — if you got to me before 12 noon Eastern Standard Time, you’re on my list– thank you!

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Let’s all forget that we were supposed to be on line at Walmart at 3AM today, or climbing over one another for those $3.00 toasters at Target, or grabbing us some $39.00 ugly cashmere sweaters at Kohl’s. Let’s remember that it’s still Fall, the most ephemeral season of the year. Let’s take the time for one last look.

One last walk in the woods — these are from the North Shore of Long Island, in a preserve known as Wellwyn.

These are from a swamp here on the North Shore. Yes, a real swamp: Shu Swamp.

And these are from the woods in back of my house. I’ve had a bit of a writer’s block this past week. It comes in the form of pure boredom with everything that crosses my mind, a listless disgust with the notion that I have anything worthwhile to tell, and a raving impatience with the act of setting words down on a page one freaking letter at at time. There are days when this writing job of mine feels a lot like trying to engrave the Lords Prayer in pig Latin on the head of a pin using a hammer and a chisel, if I have the reference to pin heads and writing upon them right, and how unamusing it is.

But I can always go to my comfort zone, take a walk, paint some leaves, feel that still have the manual dexterity if not the intelligence skill, art, or desire to do some semi-delicate work, and not feel like poking my eyes out after all.

PLUS here’s a bonus that you will see only here:

These are real leaves…but YOU’LL NEVER GUESS what kind of leaves they are!

Go on. Guess.

You’ll never guess.

But guess a tree that you’ve probably never seen.

One of the rarest trees in the world.

That grows about five miles from me, on the old estate of E. F. Hutton, the millionaire stock broker who built himself a nice mansion on the North Shore of Long Island in 1922.

OK, you’ll never guess so I’ll tell you.

They are from an American Elm tree.

This elm tree was planted in 1922 when it was 20 inches in diameter, indicating that it was already 20 years old when the famous and first female landscape architect Marian Coffin planted it for Mr. Hutton and his wife, Marjorie Merriweather Post. It escaped the fate of the 60 million American Elm trees that were killed 1924 – 1965 from Dutch elm disease that nearly wiped out elm trees worldwide (read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_elm_disease)

And when the Hutton/Post estate was turned into a campus of Long Island University in 1954, this tree managed to survive vast new landscaping, and improvements and additions to the existing structures. In 2003, this elm tree was registered with the National Register of Historic Elms.

I went to visit this elm tree in early September and it looked like this:

This elm (let’s call her Marjorie) shades the parking lot of the Administration Building at C. W. Post College. I am standing on the blacktop to take this photo, facing the dorms which you can barely see in the background. And, if you look really hard, you can see, leading up to the first branch, the electric cord that attaches to a light fixture that has been hammered into the tree.

Yes. They turned this magnificent American Elm tree into a lamp for a parking lot.

Everytime I go see this tree, I hug it and I apologize.

What do you say to a tree when you hug it?

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